How To: Clean a Flag

Clean a Flag

We hang flags to proclaim our patriotic spirit. This is especially true for retired veterans or those who have loved ones serving in the military. Others hang flags representing the seasons, important events, favorite teams or just a cute and whimsical design as decoration. An American flag can be particularly tricky to wash. Red, white and blue all lying together in one inseparable panel can cause the blue or red dye to bleed onto the white. This is not just a problem with an American flag; it is a problem with any countries' flag that has light and dark colors. Team flags and display flags also encounter this problem. When a flag becomes dingy and dirty it is time to wash it.

Step 1 Polyester / nylon / synthetics

Polyester, nylon or other synthetic fabrics are generally safe to wash in a machine. Set the washing machine on the gentle cycle with warm water. Add a mild liquid laundry detergent to the wash water.

How to Clean a Flag

You can also hand wash the flag with a mild liquid detergent made for delicate items. Hang the flag to dry on a breezy day, out of the sun. The water will intensify the sun and cause fading.

Step 2 Cotton / wool

Cotton and wool flags usually require professional cleaning by a dry cleaner to keep the colors from bleeding. Choose a dry cleaner if you do not have the washing instructions or if the flag has value to you just to be on the safe side.

If the flag is not of great value to you, you can attempt to wash it. Hand wash the flag in cold water with a mild liquid laundry detergent. Rinse it in cold water. Hang to dry or lay flat to dry.


  • Take your flag inside during rain, snow or sleet to make it last longer.
  • Consider having a sentimental flag professionally preserved and sealed in a display case to prevent damage from insects, environment or handling.
  • Always check tags or packaging instructions for acceptable washing methods and water temperatures.


  • Do not fly a flag on a very windy day. The wind is harsh and can roughen and split edges and seams, which leads to fraying.
  • Always let the flag dry completely before storing it. A stored wet flag will rot, fall apart or grow mold and mildew.

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Please don't equate being "Patriotic" with believing in America's wars...which you are essentially doing with the comment "especially retired vets or loved ones serving in military". This negative attitude is exactly why more and more Americans are starting to feel disheartened and not wanting their children to recite the Pledge of Alligance in schools, or to wave our flag. We cannot sustain our wars, nor our beliefs that war somehow still "serves our nation". we have plundered into a situation whereby 60% of our overall budget (too extrme) is spent on war/weapons/"defence", literally bringing our country down hugely in every respect...economically, spiritually, emotionally, cutting budgets accross schools, health-care etc. Lets stay positive here. Patriotism no longer means believing in our aggressive foreign policy. Patriotism means peace, which will never be achieved through our wars.

I have an old wool Betsy Ross flag, it got a little wet and as I was waiting for it to dry a downpour occurred. Now the red dye has migrated into the white and a little blue too... Is there any way to remove the runs now, or is the flag ruined?

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